When he started getting serious about freestyle soccer, Craig St. Jean could juggle a ball about 100 times on his knees.
Now? Don't even ask.
"I could go on for hours, easily," he says, without a hint of exaggeration in his voice. "It would actually be harder to count (how many touches) than to actually do it."
St. Jean, a 21-year-old Kamloopsian, is one of Canada's top freestyle soccer players. At its simplest, freestyle soccer is juggling a ball on one's feet, legs, head, neck or torso.
This is evident on St. Jean's YouTube page, which features videos of him keeping a ball aloft in a variety of ways. It's an incredible spectacle featuring a great display of athleticism, concentration and agility.
He still remembers the date - Aug. 5, 2007 - he clicked on an online video of a Japanese freestyler named Tatsulow. Tatsulow was performing freestyle soccer, and it amazed St. Jean.
"I played with Kamloops Youth Soccer Association house teams for fun," he says. "I was always interested in the skills, the ball-handling, and I figured that there were people who were good out there."
Once he found Tatsulow and the online community of freestylers, St. Jean couldn't be stopped.
He started working on his juggling, and consistently got better to the point where he is now - one of the best around.
Freestyling is quite popular in Europe, but hasn't quite taken off in Canada. Either way, St. Jean finished second at the Red Bull Street Style event in Toronto in July.
"I wasn't anything special for playing soccer," he says. "I wasn't the worst on my team, and I wasn't the best. But I put in hours and hours of practise to get better at freestyle."
The freestylers are judged on style, control and variety. They do three-minute battles with other competitors, passing the ball off every 30 seconds.
Those thousands of hours - he figures they average out to about 1 hours per day - couldn't prepare St. Jean for performing in front of a crowd and judges.
"It was 1,000 times worse," he says. "It affected me a whole bunch . . . all the pressure."
The time St. Jean has put into freestyling is starting to evolve, with work and his computer-science studies at TRU cutting into the fun.
But whatever happens from this point forward, St. Jean has set two world records - one for heel kicks, the other for standing sole juggling.
The heel record since has fallen, but the sole mark - which, as the name indicates, is bouncing a ball on the bottom of a foot - remains.
"It's not official, like in the Guinness book or anything," St. Jean says. "But it's official in the freestyle community.
"I did 35 . . . about a year and a half ago."